After two and half years of waiting, the construction of the Football For Hope Center feels like a dream - a dream come true.
From the time WKU was awarded the Football for Hope (FFH) Centre, to this day the road has been long, bumpy and windy but finally it is here. Now we'll have a lot more speace to work with clients.
Here are three facts why I really appreciate having the FFH Centre soon.
No more seeing them in the computer room or even one of our cars, where we would just cover the windows, so nobody could look inside.
No more meetings on the verandah or under the trees (which does have a nice flair occassionally), because now there will be office space for all WKU staff to work
No more patients walking up and down the hall with urine samples, because the new doctor's room will have a direct connection to the toilets.
And the kids will love the new artificial turf football field - that also means that their shoes will last much longer. And all the Mlungus (white people) can now play barefeet as well, without getting the biggest blisters of their lives.
For all this I extend my gratitude 1st of all to our CEO and Founder Marcus and Rogerio from Architecture for Humanity for their hard work pushing the process. And I'm also grateful to Edendale Hospital CEO Mrs Ndwandwe, streetfootballworld, FIFA, and Mayor of Pietermaritzburg, Councilor Chris Ndlela, because without them, we wouldn't be where we are right now - and I wouldn't be the happiest person in Edendale.
I’ve been in KwaZulu-Natal for about a month now and wow has time flown! Towards the end of 2012 whilst sitting at my desk in an office in London I came up with the idea of volunteering abroad. Coming from a background working in fundraising for an international development charity I was hoping that taking the position of Programme Coordinator with WhizzKids United would give me more direct work on the ground with our beneficiaries. I thought giving something back to those less advantaged than me whilst gaining valuable experience in an amazing place would be a truly worthwhile experience, and I’m delighted to say that I was right!
During the last 4 weeks working with the dedicated WhizzKids United programme team I have been involved with several different projects all helping the residents of the Edendale township, just outside of Pietermaritzburg, in different ways. One of my major projects has been to compile a database of other local service providers working in the HIV and AIDS sectors. We are hoping that rather than all working independently, WhizzKids United can lead the way in collaborating with these organisations, giving local residents fuller HIV and AIDS treatment, care and support services, as well as helping orphans and vulnerable children in the area.
Over the last week however, the programme team has been working hard to organise a football tournament at Sinamuva Primary School. We organise these tournaments once pupils have completed our 4 session ‘On the Ball’ Life Skills curriculum, an innovative programme based around football games and drills which helps to develop the children’s ability to deal with important issues like discrimination, abuse and HIV and AIDS, and encourages them in thinking about and working towards goals in their lives. On this occasion we decided to combine the tournament with HIV testing and counselling sessions for the children; a great opportunity to reach so many vulnerable children. Having already seen how passionate children in Edendale were about playing football, and how engaged they were with the Life Skills programme, I was really looking forward to the tournament which we held last Saturday 4th May.
The morning of the tournament started with the children being organised into random teams of 5 – an equal mix of girls and boys – and allocated a team which took part in the 2010 South Africa World Cup. When organising the teams for my group at the start it was fun to see the difference in reactions from the team that were allocated the 2010 winners Spain compared to the team who got Honduras! That said, I did feel that allocating the children with countries they may not have heard of provided an educational lesson in itself and fostered the message of equality which WhizzKids United endeavours to teach.
The tournament was a success and culminated in a final between Germany and the USA, of which Team Germany came out on top. It was great to see how excited the children were about playing in the final but also heart-warming seeing all the other students getting behind their peers.
The day was about more than the final and the winners of the tournament though. For the children it was the graduation from the WhizzKids United Life Skills programme; reinforcing the messages which they had learned, providing an opportunity for HIV testing and counselling, and giving a fun day out for all of the children.
Being a part of the tournament was a great way to finish my first month with WhizzKids Unnited. I’m already looking forward to my next one and all that comes between!
On Sunday, 30 September 2012, I met with many children in Market Square as we waited for a bus to take us all to camp. The travel was nice. We eventually came to a bed & breakfast called Mountain View. As we entered we were welcomed with warm hands. During a tour of the premises we found all of our essentials along with a swimming pool – where we would spend most of our spare time. We concluded the evening with supper and then we all went to bed.
As soon as we woke up the day began busily. The first task was to wake everyone and ensure that those who needed to take their medication precisely at 6:00 am had done so and then again at 7:00 am for the others that needed it at that time. Once those tasks were completed we moved onto breakfast at the kitchen.
Following breakfast was our first lesson facilitated by Sbonelo and Mrs Moya from Onjengami Support Group. This lesson consisted of a person on treatment and the children were asked how the person may feel about being on treatment. The lesson also included the advantages of taking the treatment correctly, eating healthy foods, and attending their doctor’s appointments. Everyone seemed to enjoy the lesson. Sbonhelo conducted a small study regarding the children’s ‘treatment taking habits’. All appeared to be doing fine and showed promise in keeping good habits to consistently take their medication.
Afterwards everyone broke for lunch and we all spent the rest of the day playing games, taking pictures, swimming, and making new friends. We all took time getting to know each other. The second day’s lesson was about ‘The Feeling’. Mrs Moya explained the difference between the many types of feelings. She spoke about disappointment, sadness, and happiness. The children also shared their views and feelings.
One boy shared a story with us, saying that one his granny called him in front of his HIV negative friends reminding him to take his treatment. He said he felt bad because his friends wanted to know what treatment he was taking and at that time he was not ready to disclose his status with them. We also motivated the children to be proud of themselves at all times, forget the bad things that happened in the past and constantly aim towards the future. The final lesson was about teaching the kids to be honest and open to speak about their feelings and what is on their mind. Most of them were grateful to have the WhizzKids United Health Academy for being there for them.
Afterwards I was given the chance to talk about WhizzKids. I explained that the Health Academy is there to take care of the youth and that we play a big role of being parents to the children during the daytime. I also spoke about the services that take part at the Health Academy such as the Mixed Gender league, Homework Club, Spa10z Hip Hop Dancing, Family Planning, Choir, and traditional Zulu dance.
In the end all of the children were happy about the workshops and everything they took part in. They really enjoyed the time they spent with their ‘spirit parents’ such as myself, brother Sbonelo, Martin, and Mrs Moya. Every child was also given gifts. The first gift was a Duduza doll for when they have stress they must speak to their dolls. The second gift was a Memory Box to write everything they face whether it be good or bad. The final gifts were sponges to relax and a blanket to always keep them warm.
We thank WhizzKids for giving us such an opportunity to learn and we also thank the WKU team and other support clubs. We enjoyed ourselves and learned so many things.
On the second day of March 2012, I started working at the Health Academy as a Lay Counselor. I knew that I chose a great job but at this point I did not know how much it meant for the many youth, orphans and vulnerable children. These young people depend on us as counselors for moral support, being someone to talk and listen to their views. We also are the ones who notice their values and support them, along with complimenting them when they do a good thing.
While I was at work a few days ago, this young man walked in to do HCT. He introduced himself as Sipho Zulu (name changed), a 15 year old boy that comes from a family with four older siblings and lives with three of his brothers. His mother and father have both since passed away. His oldest brother lives in another area with his girlfriend.
Although Sipho lives with his brothers it feels as if they are tenants because his brothers live with their girlfriends and they cook in their rooms. He continuously feels left out similar to an orphan; left to cook and eat alone. Sipho still attends school and passes with good grades however no one is around to encourage and give hope or appraisal.
He values his brothers’ birthdays and buys them presents, but none of his brothers remembers his birthday; occasionally he will remind them and they will promise to give him a present but they never do. Combining all of these emotions, Sipho consistently feels neglected and even if he is short of food he would at times rather starve.
Initially his foster care guardian was his oldest brother but eventually moved to his aunt. After spending some time in his aunt’s home he returned with his brothers because he did not feel welcomed in her home. To this day, his aunt continues to receive his foster care payment; however she keeps 200 Rand and gives him whatever is left over. This money does not go very far in the way of food because he is left with all of his school fees e.g. stationary and uniforms. Every day he arrives at school with an empty lunchbox to fill up from his school’s feeding scheme in order to have food in the evening.
Siphi is now a part of the Health Academy’s OVC programme and he comes for other services such as homework club and counseling.
When you arrive at a place that is always welcoming with warm hands, you suddenly gain interest over that place and want to belong. Early in 2011, when I had to join a long queue to do an HIV test at some place, a friend of mine told me about the WhizzKids United Health Academy. He also explained the other services that were rendered and that people my age attend the Health Academy.
The first time I arrived at the Health Academy felt as if I had been attending my whole life. The staff members showed care and love for working with the young generation. I kept coming back for things such as advice, HIV tests, watching the children play football, and I also became very interested with the children and the youth as well. Mid-year in 2011, I had an assignment that involved community service and I decided to do it at the Health Academy. During that period, the love of working with the children through football and wanting to learn more about the services grown greater and greater.
From September until November in 2012, I completed my experiential training at the Health Academy and thereafter I became a volunteer. It never crossed my mind that coming to WhizzKids United to do an HIV test would be such a great benefit to my life. The experience that I have gained is amazing.
A number of adolescents come for pregnancy tests at the Health Academy. We use this time as a good opportunity to talk to them about safer sex. I often hear the same answers such as “I forgot to use a condom that day”, “I was drinking alcohol that day so I forgot” and “I never use condoms because my boyfriend wants to have a baby”. We discuss different contraceptive methods such as two prevention injections and combined oral contraceptive pills. I always stress the importance of family planning and emphasise how the use of condoms can protect them from sexually transmitted infections and reduces the risk of contracting HIV and/or becoming pregnant.
I have found that a large number of teenagers that visit the Academy do not wish to use any form of contraception. Many worry about the possible side effects of taking pills such as weight gain or vaginal discharge. It is also common to find that female adolescents believe that if they use contraceptives now then they won't be able to conceive in the future.
Those that do use contraceptives often tell me that they sometimes forget to take the pill. If a female forgets to take the pill one day, we would encourage them to take two at the same time as soon as they remember again and then either abstain from sexual intercourse for the following seven days or use a condom. Unfortunately, a number of adolescents miss their appointments with us completely which makes it much more difficult for us to address any problems they may be having.
Missed appointments can result in unwanted pregnancies as we are not able to advise them on what to do in various situations such as these. We will support clients individually or in a couple counselling session and always stress the importance of keeping their appointment cards safe so that they don't forget which date they are supposed to come in. It shows how important it is to support, advise and encourage adolescents which is what we try our best to do at WhizzKids.
In September 2010, two 15 year old twin sisters started coming to the Health Academy where they each had HIV Counselling and Testing, a Sexual Risk Assessment and an OVC assessment.
They both tested HIV negative. When we did the OVC and Sexual Risk Assessment we found out that they live with their unemployed epileptic mother and two older siblings (also twins). Neither of them had birth certificates or ID numbers. We also found out that their father was in prison. Prior to his encapsulation, he was the sole bread winner. The father was in prison for statutory rape. He had raped the two girls when they were younger. He started raping them when they were eight.
The girls were referred to Thuthuzela Care Centre for rape and trauma counselling and to a social worker for birth certificates and ID numbers. A home visit was also done where we found that the mother was also traumatised. We had to counsel her as well in order for her to be able to support the girls.
One of the girls appeared more traumatised then the other and so she received more attention. The girl that seemed to be coping had a boyfriend and had started sleeping with him. She was not using protection and stopped coming to the Health Academy. She then moved out of her mother’s house, stopped going to school and moved in with her boyfriend.
Nobody knew where the boyfriend lived but our counsellors looked for her. When we eventually found her, she was already a few months pregnant. Her boyfriend was also a 16 year old teenager who was an orphan. He had dropped out of school two years prior to meeting this girl and he lived with his two older brothers.
When we found her, she confessed that she had stopped coming because she was embarrassed because of the pregnancy.
We encouraged her to come back again and also encouraged the boyfriend come with her. We assisted her reconcile with her mother and also realised that she had not dealt with the rape issue as we had previously thought.
She received more counselling and is back at school where she is now a year behind her sister.
My journey to Qatar began with a flight from Pietermaritzburg on the 12th January before a 9 hour wait at Johannesburg for my second flight to Dubai. Upon arrival the following day, I met a friend from Los Angeles who welcomed me as a foreigner despite the fact that she is not from Dubai either. Once in Doha, I realised that I had been travelling with 3 other participants who were going to the same conference, but we did not talk until we met at the shuttle which was there to pick us up. It turned out that because of my long first and last name, they had thought that I was two separate people so I ended up travelling in the car on my own.
I was welcomed by Christian who showed me to my room. I did not know a single person at this point but I had high hopes of making friends with other members of the conference because I am an open person. I didn’t have to wait long as I met a very welcoming girl during dinner called Iren from Zambia who I had remembered seeing at the airport. Afterwards, we had tour around Aspire which is a beautiful place with a nice view. On the Monday morning, we went to a class where we had to introduce ourselves. By then, I had already made four friends who were from Ghana, Sierra Leone and my roommate from Egypt. We were introduced to volleyball by five sporting icons; starting with some theory before the practical sessions after lunch. The food was delicious and this can be seen in my skin as a result of eating so healthily.
We went on a sand dune excursion on the fourth day in the desert where I also had the opportunity to have my first swimming lesson in the ocean which was fantastic. Basketball sessions began the following day and I really enjoyed it as it was my first experience of the sport. Other activities were boxing, judo, table tennis and swimming classes every afternoon before dinner. Playing such a variety of sports showed me that I am multi- talented as it was if I had I played them all before. It also gave me the opportunity to meet Fobbs who works in community relations and Steve who is a junior coach at Liverpool FC. The coaches had brought a gift for every participant at the conference which was also amazing.
During the conference, we took part in activities that allowed us to experience what it is like for people with disabilities who take part in sport. It encouraged me to think more outside of the box; not to feel shame for disabled people and treat them in the same way as people without disabilities. It was a dream come true to be out of the country and learn more about health initiatives practiced through sport and to socialise with people from all over the world who come from different backgrounds.
Two days before returning home, I took part in a talent event where all of us wore traditional clothing from our home countries. We shared stories, spoke about our different cultures and taught each other native dances, songs and we even discussed some of our beliefs. It was such an amazing and peaceful evening and I experienced a strong feeling of unity between everyone as if we were all part of one giant nation.
My flight from Dubai was delayed which meant that I missed the connecting flight back to Pietermaritzburg which very upsetting, but I was booked into a room at a hotel in Johannesburg before finally arriving home the following morning.
What an experience! Thank you so much for this opportunity. I cannot wait to start using my new skills and knowledge with youth in Edendale who are facing different obstacles in their lives.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
Before I begin to write, allow me to look at an angle that is often untold. Time to reflect back on our customers’ tragedy is never done and does not exist. Time is now to listen vigilantly to all the stories untold and begin to expand attentive ears. Time is now to start a debriefing forum to share our stories. One wonders how we feel about our customers, and nobody cares about how we feel as the health care workers and what daily challenges we have at work. The empowerment we impart to our clients gives much strength to them, but we seem not to drink the same medicines to help us when the storm comes. One day, I was listening to one health care worker who told us about the burns of her child. She had no delusions of every inch of sorrow she went through when she forgot how to help her child, just to apply first year management of burns to her own flesh and blood. Clinicians will tell you that episodes like that come and hit you in the back each time you face the very same challenges in your own backyard. In fact, I like to call it black-outs of the educated mind.
Time flies when having fun. Looking back through memory lane, if you had asked me where I envisaged myself in the future about twenty years ago, I would have never told you that one day I will be a health care worker caring for other people. Yes, those were the days then. Today, I talk the different language not everybody can actually understand where only the very few privileged people who know the story very well. How many of us unwind and put a pause in our daily life activities to think about other helpless young people who find themselves in situations that they have no choice over and never bargained for. It takes a lot of brainstorming and hard work to listen to cries and moans of souls who have become the victims of what others called ignorance and misfortunes. How many of us have thought how the young people feel about life? How many of us have ever thought how the young people feel about the world? If we can listen to them to tell us their stories, nobody will ever begin to impose our undesired quick fix solutions that they not looking for. I am obliged to say that what they want from us is a listening ear only of which most if not all of us are lacking. We listen to ourselves rather than paying attention to all the untold stories. Give me time to tell you a story that I am haunted by from my previous work experience. Allow me to share my sad story of patients I once met in my previous work. There was this patient who was so quiet and would come to the clinic and collect her treatment monthly. One day, she came back to the clinic routinely as she always did. Our conversation began with questions of: “Was there any problem she had that I could help her with?” She told me that she had a vaginal discharge. I took history on duration and recurrence of the problem. I realized that her file had a recorded history of episodes of this vaginal discharge problem and she had been treated for it several times before. Well, my brainstorming reached a point of unpacking the problem at hand. I asked her about Pap smear, then she told me that she had never been offered one before, so I decided to do the Pap smear. The story began with my failed attempt to insert the Cusco, since she began to sob endlessly. I took out gloves and asked why she was crying. Her response was “I have been the victim of sexual assaults. It is the day I contracted HIV. I have never had an intimate relationship in my life”.
My mind started to run in circles. I suffered some personal grief since it never came to me to think sexual assault could be the possible cause of the problem. I would not begin to blame my thinking since I cannot judge by only knowing the health status of my customer. My premise is how many of us take time to listen to our patients assiduously? I do not wish to blame all of us who worked diligently and run around like headless chickens due to our challenges to meet obligations and our customers’ expectations. Nobody cares what challenges we have as health care workers. Nobody seems to give us time to listen to our stories. Give me time to tell you my story and I will never begin to judge how you feel until you tell me your story. The better the story is told, the better the understanding of my customer’s challenges.
In conclusion, how many of us have listened to people who feel self pity about themselves? How many of us put a pause to reflect back and debrief about our daily work? Just give me time to share my story and I will leave no stones unturned. One of the lessons of my life I have learnt is: you are either infected or affected.
2012 was the year that saw my lifetime dream become a reality, where I had the greatest experience of my life.
I had the chance to deliver Life Skills sessions to a high school named Sukuma Comprehensive High School. It was my first time working with high school students and I was worried about what the behaviour of grade ten students would be like as they are becoming adolescents. Working together with my partner Neli, she helped me to adapt to the high school’s environment and understand the behaviour of the pupils there.
Doing Life Skills at the same time as sending HIV & AIDS awareness messages to the kids and the youth of Edendale is one of the most important things to me. These days, youth die due to not using protection if they are sexually active and failing to go to Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT). The job I do is fun and also very useful for the community. It has taken me to faraway places I never thought I’d go to but had always wished and imagined myself spending a day or two there.
The UNOSDP gave out forms to apply to a camp in Switzerland. I applied and was one of the chosen participants to join the camp and get the chance to go out and represent WhizzKids United. I used the opportunity to learn about leadership skills and how to go about making the kids have fun and learn at the same time to help them understand the messages better. A number of different NGOs who run similar Life Skills programmes to ours that promote awareness to youth in communities were at the camp. Where WhizzKids use football as a tool to educate youth in Edendale, the other NGOs use sports such as Basketball, Table Tennis and Judo. The camp was very helpful for me because it showed me that if you want to be a good coach or a good Life Skills trainer then you should know that you will be faced with different kinds of kids and so it is important to recognise any behavioural changes when working with them.
The skills and knowledge the UNOSDP gave to me was invaluable and I have added some of my own ideas to accommodate everyone. If a child is disabled, I can use the skills I learnt to help that child adapt to any situation he/she is in and include them in our activities. The camp was good and I learnt how to work in a team and with young people much better. As a Mixed Gender League (MGL) coach, I have applied my skills when working with the kids and have found that it helped me to connect and understand them more. As it is said, ‘To be a good leader, Lead by example’. The MGL of 2012 wasn’t as good as I had hoped due to it being the holidays where kids go out to visit their relatives. However, I have personally planned for this year and have thought about how I could make it a success by recruiting more kids, giving them health education, gathering them together to educate and support them and help them to know their HIV status. This year I hope that the job I do will help the kids to make the right decisions at the right time.
I hope to target more youth this year and help them... All the best to the year 2013.
LATEST POSTS» May 30th, 2013
After two and half years of waiting...» May 13th, 2013
From London to Edendale...» April 11th, 2013
Our Great Camp» March 21st, 2013
An Edendale Story» March 4th, 2013
How I came to WhizzKids...» February 21st, 2013
Contraceptive Advice at the Health Academy» February 13th, 2013
Twin sisters» February 6th, 2013
My Journey to Qatar» February 4th, 2013
Give me time to tell you my story» January 30th, 2013
My achievements from the year 2012
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